Odio et amo. Quare id faciam, fortasse requiris. Nescio, sed fieri sentio et excrucior.
I love and I hate. You ask me why this is so. I do not know, but I feel it, and it torments me.
"Did your mum pick out your clothes, Potter?" a voice drawled from across the dungeon. Harry looked to see Draco Malfoy sneering at him from across the room. Naturally, he'd taken advantage of Snape's momentary absence to mock his favorite nemesis. "Oh, wait. I forgot you don't have one."
Despite himself, Harry felt himself flushing. Somehow, Draco knew the exact right things to say to get under his skin, no matter how he tried to stay cool.
Hermione tugged on the back of his robe. "Harry, ignore him," she said briskly. "He's just a childish jerk."
Harry gave her a look, but couldn't do more before Ron chimed in. "Yeah, Harry, he's an arrogant pureblooded freak. His family is all ... inbred." Ron shuddered.
Harry tilted his head curiously. "Ron, you do realize you're a pureblood, too."
Draco's smooth, confident voice cut through their conversation. "Good thing his little friends are calming him down for us," he said loudly to the Slytherins gathered around him. "Or he might lose control. We could end up like Longbottom over there - a blathering idiot." The Slytherins snickered. Neville blushed.
Harry sat very still, the tips of his ears slowly turning red. Harry saw Ron glance backward at Hermione, ready to act on her expression. Apparently, she wasn't too worried, because Ron stayed seated. For now.
"What self-control," Draco observed blandly, watching carefully from his vantage point across the room. "How very impressive. Lucky for us. I'm sure he could easily knock us all off with one blow, if he really wanted. We could die." He looked around theatrically. "Our very lives are in danger." He splayed a long hand dramatically over his heart.
For some reason, this mocking awe was almost worse than the insults about his friends and family. Still, Harry stayed motionless in his seat, aimlessly doodling on his graded Potions essay without really knowing what he was doing. He saw Ron watching him with alarm, but said nothing.
"Harry, don't respond," Hermione whispered, shooting a venomous glare at the blonde-haired boy. "Please, stay composed. Remember what Dumbledore said - one more problem, and you'll be in serious trouble."
"I know, Hermione," Harry said in a careful voice.
"Hey, Potter," Draco raised his voice so it carried throughout the whole room. "Are you still keeping your cool? Or are you ready to send me the way your parents went?"
Harry said nothing.
Draco waited a beat, then continued. "You know, the ones that are DEAD. Knocked off. Finished. Gone. For good. Undeniably, indisputably, irrevocably, stone. Cold. Dead."
That finally sent Harry over the edge. Vaguely, he saw Ron back up so he was no longer blocking the path between Harry and Draco. Simultaneously, he saw Hermione out of the corner of his eye, leaning forward, trying to grab Harry's arm. "Don't do anything rash," she began to say, but was cut off mid syllable, as Harry flew out of his seat. It was almost inhuman the way he darted across the stone floor and tackled Draco out of his seat. Immediately, and with no hesitation, he punched Draco in the face - once, twice, three times, and then Draco rolled away, knocking over his stool. But Harry persisted, pinning down one of Draco's arms and driving a knee into his gut.
Draco winced, breathing in sharply, and glanced around for some support from his House. But, to no one's surprise, every Slytherin had backed up, forming a semicircle around the pair. Rolling his eyes, Draco swung his weight around and slammed an expensive Italian loafer into Harry's side. Harry screwed his face up in pain, but didn't quit. Determinedly, he dug his elbow into Malfoy's stomach, pushing with all the weight of his body behind it, which left Draco gasping for breath. But Harry didn't stop there. He followed up by throwing himself on top of the other boy and punching him in the side of the head. Draco tried to pull himself out from under Harry, but he was pinned, completely.
It was then that Snape chose to walk in. He stared at the fighting boys in horror for a second before hissing, "Filipendo." Harry and Draco flew apart from each other, like they were pulled by invisible hands, and crashed to the floor ten feet apart. The color slowly returned to Harry's face as he realized what he had just done. The whole classroom was silent in shock. Even Hermione didn't speak, her hands over her mouth in despair. Harry thought he even saw tears in her eyes. Malfoy, however, sat calmly on the floor, wiping the blood from his lips and under his nose, dusting off his robes and somehow looking like he WANTED to be sitting there on the cold stone floor.
"Forty points from Gryffindor," Snape said gleefully, his greasy black hair swinging back and forth as he glided across the dungeon towards Harry. He looked astonishingly like a vengeful bat as he hauled Harry up to his feet. "Out in the hall, now. Both of you," he specified with a meaningful look at Draco. "I shall escort you to Dumbledore's office at once. As for the rest of you, finish mixing a proper Fantasy Elixir." And with that, he swept out of the room, Draco and Harry in tow.
Harry wrenched his arm free from Snape's pincer-like grasp. He knew the way to Dumbledore's office without Snape's help. He'd certainly been there enough times. Similarly, Draco stiffened, but he didn't pull away. Harry snuck glances at Draco when he could without being seen, and felt the tiniest twinge of regret when he saw Draco's blooming black eye, bleeding nose, and bloody lip. He noticed how he was walking with a limp, and thought that maybe he should've held back, just a little bit. Then he caught Draco looking at him with his usual sneer - which looked worse since his face was bloody - and all of his scruples dissolved. He glared right back, and then looked resolutely forward.
"How you continue to cross every boundary placed in your way is a mystery, Potter," Snape said tersely. "And you, Mr. Malfoy. You need to rise above, Draco. Stop responding to Potter's petty insults."
Harry made a noise of strangled anger. "But ... he was the one who insulted ME," Harry began to protest, but Snape cut him off.
"Mr. Potter. Don't spread your libelous lies any further," Snape ordered. "We are not interested in hearing the latest piece of propaganda you've constructed."
Furious, Harry remained quiet, but just barely. Luckily, they were soon at Dumbledore's office. "Ice Mice," Snape said with great dignity, and the doors slid open.
"I must admit, Harry, I am rather impressed with your ability to end up in my office several times a week. One would almost think you were trying," Dumbledore said, with a gleam in his eye. Harry remained stoic in his chair. Draco suspected he wanted to say something, but was restraining himself because Draco was there, and he reveled in the power, for a brief second.
Dumbledore seemed content to not say anything for the time being, and regarded the two boys. The intensity of his stare made Draco feel oddly self-conscious, a rare occurrence. So he took the moment to look at the scene, study the moment, assess it, as his father had taught him. Granted, his father meant him to use these observations to dominate those around him. But that didn't matter. Draco told himself - firmly - that it was practice, and continued to assess.
There they were, Harry and himself, probably as close to opposites as there was in the world. Fair and dark, good and evil, and all of those other cliched 'opposite' lines. Whatever. And there was Dumbledore, sitting there, evaluating, judging them with his eyes. Draco felt him observe Harry's painful, shallow breaths, his cheekbone splattered with developing bruises. Then the blue eyes turned on him, seeing the black eye, the bloody nose and lip, his carefully straight back and blank expression. And Draco noticed something a bit odd. He looked at both boys the same way, with the same amount of dry amusement and understated sympathy, disregarding the fact that one boy was a national hero, and the other was most likely trying to kill him. He didn't seem to care that Draco's father was a recognized Death Eater, or that Harry had saved the world a half dozen times.
Dumbledore had to be losing it, Draco decided, if he couldn't realize the drastic differences between the two of them. So, he pasted on his condescending and patronizing look, and prepared to be talked at. The look was convenient in that it also hid the burning hatred for Harry that he held in the pit of his stomach. The hatred that had made him goad Harry into a fight, just so he could be justified when he hit him. He kept it hidden under a series of masks, but that didn't make it any less real - on the contrary. There was nothing in the world he hated more than an obnoxious hero. But it wasn't the time to think about Harry. It was the time to act innocent, attacked, and possibly even a bit scared. Not too difficult.
"You were there when I promised Professor Snape that if he caught you in one more scuffle, he could keep you sorting animal intestines for two months," Dumbledore said almost cheerfully. "And yet, here you are. Fighting. I'm curious, is there any reasoning behind your actions, Harry?"
Harry opened his mouth, shut it, then burst out, "He mentioned my mother."
"How strangely typical," Dumbledore chuckled. "So let me see if I follow. He mentioned dearest Lily, and you leaped out of your chair and attempted to end his time on this earth?"
"Something like that," Harry mumbled.
Draco couldn't resist a dig. "Don't be so modest, Potter," he sighed, trying to ignore the coppery blood coating the back of his throat. "It was at least five minutes after that. Don't you remember? I complimented you. THEN you hit me. He just can't take a compliment," he finished in a conspiratorial tone to Dumbledore.
Dumbledore's face remained impressively neutral. "Well, Harry? Is Draco correct?"
Harry seemed to be struggling with himself. "In a way, Professor," he said at last. "I ... I don't want to sound childish, but ... he wasn't complementing me. I mean, his words might've been, but the WAY he said it ... I sound like such an idiot, but he was ... he was making fun of me." Harry buried his bloody face into his bloodier hands. "I'm sorry. I'll stop talking now."
Draco smirked. Just as he had intended it, Harry had no defense.
Unfortunately, Dumbledore saw the smirk, and interpreted it correctly, in that annoying way he had. "Draco, I'm afraid you don't realize the gravity of the situation. If I were to believe Harry, by some ... miracle, then you would be in very serious trouble indeed."
Draco felt some energy draining out of his smirk as he realized what the Headmaster was saying. "I realize this," he answered respectfully, as his father had taught him.
"Very good." Dumbledore nodded once, pushing his chair back and folding his hands over his stomach. "Then I shan't feel bad about informing you that I DO, in fact, believe Harry. He has proven himself trustworthy on numerous occasions, wouldn't you agree?" It was a rhetorical question. Draco didn't answer. "So, taking into consideration the fact that you provoked Harry into attacking you, for reasons known only to you, I'm sure, I am deducting forty points from Slytherin, as well. You will also be joining Harry in detention."
Draco couldn't help it - he smirked again. Snape favored him - he wouldn't have to do a thing.
However, again, Dumbledore saw it. "The detention will not be served with Professor Snape," he said regretfully, strolling around the perimeter of the office. "I think a different punishment is in order for the pair of you." He stopped at a small chest of drawers and was busy for a moment. Then, he turned, holding two flasks of brownish potion. "I'm sure you both recognize this," he said jovially.
Draco did - Polyjuice potion. A quick glance at Potter confirmed it - Harry looked like someone had asked him to swallow a live snake. But, resignedly, Harry took a flask, tugged at his hair, and dropped three loose hairs into the potion. Immediately, it transformed into a bright gold, almost glowing with warmth. Listlessly, Harry handed it to Draco, and Draco noticed how careful he was that their hands didn't touch.
Draco balanced Harry's potion on his leg while he yanked out a few silvery blonde strands of his own. His potion turned a deep, cool silver that seemed to take in more light than it gave off. He handed it to Harry. "Bottoms up, Potter," he said casually, and downed the whole thing in one gulp.
"May I inquire as to the taste?" Dumbledore asked curiously.
Harry swallowed hard. "Wine, I think. But sharper." His face began to get blurry and distorted.
"Caramel," Draco said with disgust. At least it didn't stick to his teeth, he thought grudgingly, as his blood flashed hot as liquid fire, and his features began to ripple and melt.
"Fascinating," Dumbledore said, in a tone that conveyed absolutely no fascination, watching the transformations. It certainly wasn't exactly a shocking transformation. It seemed the two boys had only switched places in their chairs, though the potion did have the interesting effect of healing their battle wounds. Admittedly, it was strange to see Harry's body sprawled out in the casual grace Draco had, and for Draco's face to be so transparent. That's what was strange for Draco, at least. He was used to his face staring out at him from mirrors blankly, not looking at him from across the room in surprise and anger.
Draco ran his hand through his new unruly black hair, squirmed in his new oddly fitting clothes - even though he and Harry were the same general size, somehow the clothes fit him different. "Potter, glasses," he said in a bored voice. Grudgingly, Harry tossed them to him, and Draco adjusted them on his nose. "How do I look? Because I know I FEEL like a prat."
Draco watched his face scowl at him, but Harry said nothing.
"Wonderful, Draco. I can tell this is going to go fabulously," Dumbledore said happily. "Now. The two of you will live each others lives. For two hours every night, you will meet in the Room of Requirement before returning to your dormitories."
"For how long?" Harry asked morosely.
"How long will I be Malfoy?" Harry spat.
"Excuse me, but I do believe the real question is how long will I be the idiot known universally as Harry Potter?" Draco cut in.
Dumbledore regarded the pair of them. "Splendid. This will be splendid." He seemed to be in a reverie.
"Sir? How long?" Potter asked again.
"Oh. Well, I'm afraid that depends on you."
"Both of us?" Draco asked despairingly.
"Quite. Once you have reached an understanding of each other, once the hatred you've nurtured for years is gone. Only then can you switch back." And with that, Dumbledore strolled out the door.
"Bloody hell," Harry said with feeling. I'm never going to get back."
"At least you got Polyjuiced into an upgrade," Draco sniped. "I have taken a definite downgrade. And I'll probably be forced to be you forever. Maybe I should shave my head," he said thoughtfully, tugging at a lock of black hair.
"NO," Harry said firmly. "Or I swear, I'll die your hair purple."
Draco looked horrified. "Can't I even trim it?" he asked plaintively. "It's so ... messy."
"It's FINE. Let's go." Draco winced as his body lurched up with none of his customary grace, and stood up.
"Aren't you forgetting something?" he asked. Harry looked at him uncomprehendingly and Draco sighed. "We need to switch clothes, Potter. Imagine the heartache if Draco Malfoy was seen walking in wearing Gryffindor colors, which make me look deathly pale, don't you agree? Though you should wear green more often," he said, looking down at himself. "It brings out your eyes."
"Yeah, THAT doesn't sound weird at all," Harry scowled. "Stop hitting on me, Malfoy. We can just switch robes and ties." He began to loosen his red and gold tie.
"Never!" Draco declared obstinately. "Everything." He considered. "Except underwear."
"Thanks," Harry said sarcastically.
For the first time, Draco saw an expression he recognized as his own on his face. With a victorious air, he began to pull off his clothes, frowning at the somewhat shorter fingers he had now. To his disappointment, Harry's boxers were nothing embarrassing. just blue plaid, though his socks were a surprisingly dismal shade of grey.
"Wow, Malfoy. Spending big money on everything, aren't you?" Draco looked up to see Harry looking at his emerald green silk boxers in bemusement.
"At least I HAVE big money," Draco retorted, pulling on Harry's pants. "Now that my dashing good looks are gone, money – and my legendary charm, of course – are all I have left going for me."
"No, you're the Chosen One now," Harry pointed out.
"Lovely," Draco muttered. "I'm a hero. That's just grand."